Skip to content

Summerland to examine sister-city relationship with Toyokoro, Japan

Since the early 1990s, Summerland and the Japanese town have had sister-city ties in place
During a sister city visit to Summerland in 2014, delegates from Toyokoro, Japan attended the rededication of the Toyo Lantern at the Summerland Community Health Centre. The lantern has been on the grounds of the facility since 1967. Summerland and Toyokoro have had a sister city agreement in place since the early 1990s. (Summerland Review file photo)

A director on Summerland’s Sister City committee is concerned the community’s connection with Toyokoro, Japan is being overlooked.

Vince Hannas worked as an English teacher in Toyokoro for several years in the early 2000s, when the connection between the two communities was thriving.

However, he said there has been little discussion about this relationship in recent years.

“It’s been out of sight, out of mind,” he said.

Since the early 1990s, Summerland has had a sister city agreement in place with Toyokoro. The town on the island of Hokkaido, Japan has a population of around 3,300 and is an agricultural community.

According to a statement on the Summerland website, the goals of the sister city agreement are to strengthen ties of friendship as well as to economic improvements. The agreement has resulted in the exchange of citizens, especially students, from both communities.

READ ALSO: Toyokoro delegation travels to Summerland

READ ALSO: Sister city agreement in place for 20 years

In past years, Summerland would send delegations to Toyokoro, and the Japanese town would send delegations to Summerland. The relationship resulted in a friendship between the two communities.

Students from Toyokoro would take part in short visits to Summerland in past years. Summerland would send delegations of elected officials and members of the community’s royalty program for short visits to Japan.

There were also some economic benefits, as a Summerland winery was able to sell wines in Toyokoro in past years.

Hannas, who continues to keep in touch with the community of Toyokoro, said the town is interested in keeping its relationship with Summerland.

He said the agreement and the international exchanges have benefitted people in both communities.

“They see a massive educational benefit for their town members,” he said.

Summerland mayor Doug Holmes says the COVID-19 pandemic affected the sister-city relationship. But now, the municipality is able to assess its sister city relationship.

Holmes said Summerland council sees the sister city agreement as a community initiative rather than a council initiative.

The last time Summerland hosted an official visit from Toyokoro was in 2014. Since that time, the community has twice sent delegations to Japan.

“The political relationship doesn’t really work for either of us,” Holmes said. “If it continues, it has to evolve.”

During past visits to Summerland and to Toyokoro, gifts have been exchanged. The gifts received by Summerland had been displayed at Summerland’s Municipal Hall on Henry Avenue. At present, these items are at the Summerland Museum, where they have been documented.

John Arendt

About the Author: John Arendt

John Arendt has worked as a journalist for more than 30 years. He has a Bachelor of Applied Arts in Journalism degree from Ryerson Polytechnical Institute.
Read more